How can you become the best leader for your employees and your company? Turns out, it has a lot to do with your mindset towards both.
Over the last few years, the concept of mindsets has been a topic of increasing interest, perhaps due to the growing realisation in business today that there is a direct correlation between an employee’s mindset and their performance. In fact, evidence regularly suggests that mindsets can often deliver more in terms of employee performance—more than qualiﬁcations, education, and, at times, even experience. So if mindsets are so powerful in the workplace, we need to spend more time gaining understanding about them.
A good place to start is to analyse the mindsets of employees and managers and how they interrelate and correlate. By doing this we start to understand more about what makes people tick and can start to clearly identify the links between how people think and feel and the impact this has on how they act, behave, and perform.
Unfortunately this is an area few understand and most avoid, despite the fact it holds the potential to dramatically increase results and performance and probably exactly why it has attracted the attention of Wall Street analysts. From more than 5,000 surveys, performance assessments, one-on-one interviews, and 12-month case studies, we have found that that there are a set of triggers which directly link to sustained high performance in an individual.
These triggers point to four management mindsets responsible for generating a set of positive feelings, thoughts, observations, assumptions, perceptions, and beliefs about the person who leads them—the line manager. We have all known for some time the line manager plays a critical role in inﬂuencing high performance, but exactly how they inﬂuence high levels of performance has been less clear and often confusing, as the management rulebooks have signiﬁcantly changed in the last 20 years and so have the people we manage.
1: The Emotional Intelligence Mindset
The manager who displays the emotionally intelligent mindset is a conscious role model who understands that how they go about their work on a day-to-day basis will signiﬁcantly impact and inﬂuence the performance levels of their people. This manager is constantly and consciously looking for cues and signals from their team through their actions, responses, body language, and tone of voice, all of which serve as critical information on how to manage each person more effectively.
For some managers, this is second nature; for most, it is a choice they must actively make. Many managers who are caught up in the busyness of their days do not necessarily pick up on this information and therefore miss out on the opportunity to make use of it later on, particularly in situations
relating to performance and feedback. The ﬁrst place to start to develop this mindset is to teach managers to be self-aware. It is this ability that typically distinguishes those who are highly emotionally intelligent from those who are not.
Self-awareness is about having a clear perception of your own personality, motivations, needs, drivers, beliefs, hot and cold buttons, and so on. It is only once you are self-aware that you can then start to understand more accurately the behaviour of others. As a manager, once you are able to read and interpret cues in others, you then are able to predict their likely response in situations and pre prepare your response to them. This mindset helps a manager to avoid potentially regretful situations as a result of knee-jerk responses.
2: The Connection Mindset
Research continually shows that high-performing employees typically feel connected. This is achieved through the line manager consciously connecting their people on many levels. Why this is often not achieved is that managers typically misunderstand the difference between communication and connection. In simple terms, communication is the sharing of information, whereas connection is more about communicating in such a way that some sort of emotional bond is achieved.
The act of connecting goes far deeper than communication and takes more effort, time, and skill. It also requires a deeper understanding of others to be able to achieve. There are many areas to consider when looking at connection but one of the best places to start is to look at the strength of connection between manager and employee. This crucial connection is driven by many things but in my view the most important factor is the often misunderstood “psychological contract”. The psychological contract is in play every minute of every day at work. It can be under threat with every conversation and every action that occurs. It fuels the connection between manager and employee and subjectively measures perceptions of fairness, trust, loyalty, and delivery on expectations (both ways). Every manager must understand this concept as it has the ability to make or break connections in an instant—and the willingness and motivation to perform—or not.
3: The Growth Mindset
One of the most important roles of a manager is to coach, train, and develop their people to enhance their skills and knowledge. The Growth Mindset is more than this though. The manager who adopts this mindset is focused on increasing conﬁdence in their people, as conﬁdence is often a precursor to high-performance and unlocking potential. Our experience shows that the best managers see qualities in individuals that the individual sometimes cannot see for themselves. These managers identify hidden potential and actively work towards building conﬁdence in that person to help them realise it.
Contrary to what many people think, conﬁdence is a teachable skill. There is a speciﬁc pathway to building conﬁdence in a person and a manager should know this and work to develop it in others every day.
The starting point here is to consider four key competencies. Each competency is equally important and each competency will either fuel or undermine the conﬁdence people have in themselves or the conﬁdence others have in them. These competencies apply to all businesses and should be measured and assessed through the probation period and beyond, until competence is deemed achieved.
Only once competence is achieved does the magic start to happen. Competence will drive conﬁdence and this will facilitate people stepping out of their comfort zone, taking calculated risks, and starting on the road to high performance and high potential.
As a manager, accountability, focus, and the performance of your team should be a top priority. This mindset will determine your team’s level of success as well as yours. It will also directly impact whether or not people consider you to be an accountable, focused, and performance-driven manager.
Accountable managers with focused minds consistently outperform others. Having clarity about what needs to be achieved and a commitment to the tasks typically gets the job done. Managers with high levels of control (not to be mistaken for micro-management, which is quite different) usually have greater self-control and focus. They also stay composed and positive even in testing situations, think clearly under pressure, and can anticipate problems and potential bottlenecks.
Basic human behaviour indicates that when control is lost, fear typically rises and emotions are triggered. As a consequence, performance and relationships can be undermined. The high-performing manager is able to anticipate problems and does not let them happen. The number one place to start is set the right expectations early on, and this fairly straightforward action will save much emotional energy and time in the long run.
In my experience, most negative conversations link back to unclear and unrealistic expectations and/or inconsistent follow up. Ensure managers qualify and validate expectations using objective data and do not base their expectations on hopes, ideals, and unfair comparisons. This together with consistent followup will ensure people know what is expected of them—which for most people today is actually more reassuring than undermining.
Anna-Lucia Mackay is an educator, speaker, and writer in the ﬁelds of emotional intelligence and management. She is the author of The Four Mindsets – How to Inﬂuence, Motivate and Lead a High Performance Team (Wiley) and in 2012 was a Finalist for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards in recognition for her work in these ﬁelds. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hcmglobal.biz or @annaluciamackay on twitter instagram and facebook.